If You Work from Home, Here’s Why You Need an “Evening Commute”

published Dec 15, 2023
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Woman at coffee shop working on laptop.
Credit: Getty Images/ Luis Alvarez

If you work from home, you know one of the biggest positives is no commute. But one of the biggest negatives? 

No commute. 

Without that dreaded half-hour subway ride or 40 minutes stuck sitting in traffic, there’s no defined end to your day that forces your brain to turn off. You just keep going because 5 p.m. doesn’t signal anything. The time comes and goes, and you’re still at your computer. It feels like a Catch-22. You either spend your extra time cursing other cars or swearing this is the last time you sit on a single tracking train, or you spend a few more hours slogging away at your computer. 

So is it a case of choosing the lesser of two evils? Not necessarily. I’m not suggesting you bring the transit commute back and head into the office, but I do think it’s time to embrace an evening commute. 

Research shows that a commute adds structure and closure to your day, and those are all beneficial for your mind and body. Humans crave predictability and routine. Once you start doing something, you’ll keep doing it (which is why working late every night is all-too-easy to fall into!). Humans also like when different tasks and parts of themselves can be separated — the commute is the separation between your work self and your home self.

But no one said your commute had to go anywhere. Instead, your evening commute can be a walk around the neighborhood — and that’s exactly what you should be doing if you’re WFH.

“An evening commute gives you time to decompress and let go of whatever happened during the work day,” says Kayla Kleinman, a social media manager and content creator. She’ll put in her headphones, turn on music or a podcast, and help her brain shift away from work tasks, to-do lists, and the emails sitting in her outbox. 

One of the keys? Shutting your laptop before you go and transitioning your home into a home rather than a home office. “I love that it gives your body and your mind an actual cue to shift from WFH mode to living-at-home mode,” says Kleinman. “I’ll come back from my walk feeling like I’m actually coming ‘home’ and not back to that place where I also worked all day.”

Credit: VeaVea/Stocksy

Kleinman reports that since starting her evening commute, she finds that she logs off early, driven by a need to get out the door and walk before it gets too late. “It’s allowed me to have much clearer boundaries between work and life,” she says. 

Rhia Batchelder, a career coach and wellness speaker at Rebuild with Rhia who works to help professionals reduce stress and prevent burnout, looks at this evening commute as a way to shift out of stress response mode. “Most of us sit in our stress all day, without even realizing it. This can lead to burnout over time, which can come with a host of frustrating symptoms, like decreased motivation, exhaustion, irritability, and more,” says Batchelder. She says this evening commute walk is critical to protecting your health, but the key is making it a habit. 

What’s the best way to create that habit? Make it easy and make it something you want to do. Have a playlist you’re looking forward to, go outside if you want fresh air, and don’t hold yourself to a long walk on day one. Just make it happen. “Habits form via repetition, not perfection,” explains Batchelder. 

Career Coach Sara Madera adds that your WFH commute doesn’t have to be a walk — especially if you’re truly short on time, thanks to crammed schedules, children that need to be picked up from daycare, or anything else that would make a stroll less than relaxing. “Find a way to set yourself up for success in the time that you have. The evening commute could be a small action or ritual to support the transition between work and personal life.”
Madera suggests creating a ritual out of deep breathing, putting on a specific song or playlist, or even just sitting in silence. “Make the space to mentally put away the work day and prepare for the evening. The ‘evening commute’ is not about the amount of time, but rather the intention, allowing yourself to shift gears.”